How would you like to own a dog that has won more than half its 103 races, including six of its last eight and earned $194,000 in prize money? Is there another dog racing that can equal that performance? Black Magic Opal, perhaps, and one or two others. But they are rare.
Stagger has done that and is still going strong at 4 years and 5 months of age. He is off again at Traralgon tomorrow. Just last Sunday he bolted in at Sale in a smart 24.69 in a Veterans field, but most of his starts have been against all comers, including an unplaced finish in Walk Hard’s roughly run heat of the Warragul Cup. Note that, going into the six heats, only three starters had earned more cash than Stagger – Black Magic Opal, Paw Licking and Spud Regis – and all three had the advantage of picking up big prizes in town. Stagger had done it the hard way.
Leading up to that race, he had also won in 16.75 at Traralgon and 21.85 at Shepparton, both really quick runs.
By Primo Uno out of Instructed First, Stagger was bred, owned and is trained by Garry Selkrig of Devon Meadows. Both trainer and dog deserve credit for maintaining its form over such a long period, with only one break of any consequence in mid-2013. The dog won five races in succession in mid-2012, four in a row later that year, and four times since then has won three in a row.
Stagger has started at fifteen different tracks over varying distances from 298m to 535m, winning at every one, bar a single start at Bulli. He is a reliable beginner, rather than a brilliant one, but quickly runs to the lead before the turn. That’s a big contrast to his dad, a wonderful galloper, but one which could not get out of a box to save his life (but has still sired many top performers).
No doubt his best performances have been over the tough Horsham 480m trip, where he has broken the 27 seconds mark three times. That’s the mark of a hard chaser and this dog certainly fills the bill.
But are there more such veterans around? Not long ago I instanced a similar, although not quite so brilliant career by Burnt Fuse, but others are not easy to find. Victoria programs regular Veterans races, but they have almost disappeared in NSW and Queensland, and are not common in SA. Why is this so? Almost invariably, these runners put up consistent performances, their form is well known to punters and they can often run top times – Stagger’s run at Sale was easily the best of the meeting.
Injuries or loss of interest can be a barrier for many but is there enough encouragement for owners and trainers to support a bigger Veterans circuit? Such dogs can often lose a fraction of their early dash but more often than not they can still run good overall times, no matter their age (Stagger’s sectional at Sale was a modest 5.34). It seems the industry may be losing an opportunity to widen public interest as well as improve the economics of dog ownership.
After all, half the Aussie Test team is over 30 years old, while Li Na is rising 32 years of age and has just picked up a cool $2.6 million in winning the Australian Open. Many promising youngsters fell by the wayside
Speaking of tennis, it is remarkable the similarities between sports. Stanislas Wawrinka, up against a better credentialled opponent in the men’s singles, got stuck into him early and quickly dominated the way the match was conducted. His running numbers would have been 1121. Rafa never really got back into the race, despite picking up a set when Stan missed a few forehands. Rafa’s injury was unfortunate but the stage had already been set by then.
For all his abilities, Rafa’s main strength is really his defence. He will get the ball back from anywhere and just waits for the opportunity to unleash his magic forehand. But Stan would not let him do it, or not often enough. He took the initiative and that decided the race.
How often is the greyhound race run the same way? Put up a flighty performer against a hard chaser and you would want to be on the chaser most of the time. Given a chance, he is the one that dominates the running of the race, especially at the finish. A classic example was Walk Hard v Paw Licking in the Warragul Cup final.
Of course, experience also counts, which is also why there should be more Veterans races.
FIELDS FALLING AWAY?
A couple of readers expressed sorrow at the shift from locally graded fields to the current computer-dominated system, reasoning that the club grader always had the opportunity to ring around and get extras to fill up the program. (See previous article, IS ANYBODY WORRIED ABOUT THE PRODUCT, 27 January).
There is some validity in that thought, and also in the ability of some managers to initiate more interesting races.
Unfortunately, history will not be re-visited, if for no other reason than that some may not have done the right thing in the past. Besides, what sort of dog are you going to get when you twist a trainer’s arm to get more nominations?
In any event, that still does not solve the problem of the lack of numbers. The supply and demand formula has got out of whack. We either breed more dogs, cut the number of races, or run short fields. They are the only options.